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Singapore’s US$1.3 billion probe exposes Chinese criminals’ paid-for passports

This Week in AsiaEconomics

Citizenship for sale: Singapore’s US$1.3 billion money laundering probe exposes Chinese criminals’ paid-for passports

Many of the arrested Chinese suspects had foreign passports from the likes of Cambodia and Vanuatu, where citizenship can cost as little as US$130,000An overseas citizenship can help wanted criminals – including from China – vanish, rebrand and get back to their illicit deeds using a new identitySingaporeAidan JonesPublished: 9:30am, 16 Sep, 2023Why you can trust SCMP

Chinese criminals have a new must-have in their villains’ tool kits to cross borders, evade jail and wash the billions of dollars sucked up from phone scams, online gambling and pyramid schemes across Asia: passports from Cambodia, Cyprus, and even the tiny South Pacific island of Vanuatu.This “ citizenship for sale” phenomenon has come under renewed scrutiny since Singapore’s August 15 seizure of US$1.3 billion in assets – and arrest of 10 Chinese suspects holding a cornucopia of other nationalities – in a massive money-laundering probe.The scandal has pulled in top banks, rattling regulators over the nature of the cash in Singapore’s financial system, as details of nominee companies and alleged criminal affiliations are drip-fed to a public unused to the city state being cast as a criminal haven.

It has also exposed how holding an overseas citizenship can help wanted criminals – many from China – vanish, rebrand and get back to their nefarious deeds under a new identity.

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